In support of Black Lives Matter and to confirm commitment and solidarity against the attacks on Asian Americans and the harassment and homicide of Black individuals, the banner design, Better (2021), by social practice artist Mel Chin (b. 1951, Houston, Texas) articulates the importance of language and translation to social justice work in our diverse nation.
The design emerged from a simple question: how do you meaningfully express “Black Lives Matter” in Chinese? Troubled by the inadequacy of common translations, the artist consulted with scholars and chose heiming youguan, a variation of a Chinese idiom xingming youguan meaning “vitally important, a matter of life and death.” The strategic substitution of the Chinese characters meaning “black life” (heiming) for those meaning “soul-life” (xingming) provided the artist with words worthy of amplification. Originally created with For Freedoms, a U.S. artist-run platform presenting artists’ civic engagement in public spaces, Chin’s banner represents mutual support and the linked struggles of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) communities against hate.
This is third in a series of artist-designed banners on the DMA's Ross Avenue Plaza that use art as a catalyst for conversation and change around issues of sociopolitical importance.
Admission is FREE.
For further exploration, find related content across the web via the links below.
Better is organized by the Dallas Museum of Art. The Dallas Museum of Art is supported, in part, by the generosity of DMA Members and donors, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Texas Commission on the Arts, and the citizens of Dallas through the City of Dallas Office of Arts and Culture.
Images: Mel Chin, Better, 2021, printed banner. Courtesy of the artist and Dallas Museum of Art